CAIRO — Thousands of supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office today in a “day of steadfastness” to protest against the formation of a new interim cabinet on its first day on the job.
Protesters held up Korans and portraits of Mursi in the blistering noon heat outside the main government buildings in the centre of Cairo, demanding Mursi be restored to power. They shouted “God is Greatest!” and “Down with military rule!”
“We have only two goals, legitimacy or martyrdom,” said Ahmed Ouda, 27. Another man interrupted to add: “Peaceful martyrdom!”
Crisis in Egypt, which straddles the Suez Canal and has a peace treaty with Israel, has alarmed its allies in the West and the region. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is due in town, the latest international figure to meet Egypt’s interim rulers.
Unlike a US envoy who came two days ago, she is also expected to meet senior figures in Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The army, which removed Egypt’s first freely elected president from power two weeks ago, accused Mursi’s supporters of inciting armed demonstrations near military bases and trying to turn a political dispute into a religious quarrel.
Egypt swore in an interim cabinet on Tuesday of 33 ministers, mostly technocrats and liberals. Not one was drawn from the two main Islamist factions that won five straight elections since a 2011 uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
“Does it believe in itself? Does anybody?” Essam El-Erian, a senior leader in Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, said on Facebook of the new cabinet. “How can it have any authority when it knows that with one word from the military all its members can be sent home on pain of being arrested?”
The swearing-in took place in an ornate hall hours after overnight street battles between Mursi supporters and the security forces left seven dead and more than 260 wounded, the worst violence in a week. (Reuters)